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Best of 2011Best of 2011: Andrew's picksAndrew's picks (2011)
Reviewer Rating: 5
Contributed by: JeloneAndrew
(others by this writer | submit your own)
Andrew is a news editor. - ed. Well, this is weird. This time last year I was having problems sleeping, talking to my doctor about going on medication for my anxiety and depression and feeling altogether gnarly about virtually everything. This year, I'm writing a best of list for a site I'v.
Andrew is a news editor. - ed.
The follow up to 2009's Somebody Loves You, A New Home in the Old World sees Austin expand the arrangements in terms of instrumentation, while maintaining the consummate songwriting and delivery that makes his work so strong. Once again, Austin's varied influences, and obvious love of a range of American folk styles, offers up an album that hearkens back, while retaining a sense of timelessness. There are very good reasons these sounds have endured, and Austin helps you to see them.
From the first time I heard the opening piano bars, this album really got under my skin. While the instrumentation is of an excellent standard, offering a haunting but oddly comforting tone to the record, the lyrics are the standout point, for my money. A deftly phrased, insightful study on life in our particular corner of "Generation Y," sincere without being staid and witty without being disconnected, this is an album for those evenings of introspection that seem to afflict young people of a certain character in their mid-20s.
This combination of driving rock and roll and punk sounds like its album art suggests. It stands as a document of contemporary Britain, suffering under a Conservative-led coalition government, bent on cutting away vast chunks of the welfare state, as well as attacking other public services. This album stands as an expertly crafted howl of injustice. Crazy Arm are easily one of the most important punk bands in the U.K. today.
Conveyor is, more than anything else, a treatise on the experience of alienation, and the application of such into well directed rage. While certainly aggressive, it stands, to me at least, as an invitation to find comfort in a common feeling of righteous fury. In short, this album will make you feel magnificently pissed off, and if you've got something to direct that rage toward constructively, all the better. The best album to work out to since Set It Straight's Live Your Heart And Never Follow.
Ever since his work with Tuesday in 1997, we've been able to rely on Daniel Andriano to provide intensely emotive songs, and those of us who are Alkaline Trio fans have come to know his work extremely well. As a long term Alkaline Trio fan myself, I've noticed a tendency in Dan to veer toward slower, more intimately introspective songs in recent years, and this is certainly the case with this, his first solo full length in his guise as the Emergency Room.
It's difficult to offer anything other than a wholly subjective view of this record for a couple of reasons. In the first place, as I've said, I'm an Alkaline Trio fan of some 10 years now, and so what I find in the work of an artist I've been following for that length of time is almost certainly coloured by that depth of context. In the second place, I've been dealing with mental health issues lately, specifically depression and anxiety, and while depression and it's related themes have been influential in Dan's work for many years, they seem a lot more pronounced on this record. Maybe that's me picking things out more since my diagnosis, but either way, this was a tough album for me to get into. That's not a comment on the quality of the work, but rather a comment on my state of mind at the time. As I got a better handle on my depression, I got a better handle on the album, and rather than being brought down further by the themes presented within, I began to take comfort in the fact that one of my favorite musicians was writing about the thing I'd been struggling with for months. If there's a point to any of this; music, I mean; it's got to be in it's capacity to communicate that which is often difficult to express fully, and Hurricane Season accomplishes that lofty aim with apparent ease. It's a richly rewarding portrait of an accomplished songwriter at the top of his game, but it should be approached in the right way, particularly if you're struggling with similar feelings yourself.
I've been all over this album for many of the same reasons I've been all over the Dan Andriano record, but from a different angle, if that makes sense. If I've learned anything about dealing with depression effectively, it's that vigilance and perspective are hugely important virtues. If you can keep an eye on your moods, and process that information as rationally as possible, the nastier side of things is a lot easier to predict and counter. What that means, in practice, is that having a catchy and melodic pop-punk record on hand to bust out the air drums to is a huge boon so the patient with a predilection for punk rock.
This album isn't particularly experimental, but it does what it does extremely well, and what it does is deliver melodic pop-punk, the kind that invites impromptu singalongs and huge grins, like nothing else this year. Simply put, this album is a good buzz, and short of a six mile run or half-an-hour pounding a heavy bag, there's nothing to beat it for getting your eyes bright and your emotional seesaw weighted on the posi-as-owt side. Get stoked.
As something of an unreconstructed David Bowie fan, there are a few things that can be guaranteed to pique my interest about a record. Those things are, for those who care, gloriously unapologetic genderfuckery/androgyny, musicians with comically large sideburns and concept albums. In this case, only the latter is relevant, but it is relevant like the sun is warm.
David Comes To Life is a sprawling monster of a concept record, whilst also being a driving and kinetic punk rock tour de force. On the surface, its narrative is fairly straightforward, until about halfway through, when it becomes apparent just how meta it is, and just how much Fucked Up are intent on forcing the listener to think. Like other great works of fiction where meta-narrative holds sway, the album rewards your attention, and will continue to do so the more you return to it. Proof, if proof were needed, that you can produce a progressive work without it sounding proggy, or shoving your head up your arse. The thinking person's choice.
The Hotel Year: It Never Goes Out
Managing EditorAdam White
Contributing EditorsKira Wisniewski Brittany Strummer Armando Olivas John Flynn Chris Moran John Gentile Mark Little
Copy EditorAdam Eisenberg Britt Reiser
Podcast ProducerGreg Simpson
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